Prince: The great musician and his connection to Africans worldwide

First Published in (The Burning Spear newspaper January 2016 edition) and Burning Spear Online Published Jan 5, 2016
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I am still looking for my platinum or gold awards from Warner Bros. Canada, as I was the first to promote Prince in the great white north (Canada).

In the October 19, 1978 edition of Al Hamilton’s African Canadian weekly newspaper Contrast, I wrote: “Warner Bros. has another Stevie Wonder in their new 18-year-old artist, Prince.

On his first Warner Bros. album, Prince did it all. He composed the music, produced the session, played the instruments, which included: drums, guitars, bass synthesizers and more…

“Prince is the youngest person to ever produce a Warner Bros. album. The album is ‘For You’ and single ‘Soft and Wet.’”

There is an African connection to Prince’s film “Purple Rain”, as Director Christopher Kirkley re-imagines Prince’s “Purple Rain” on the mother continent.

The film “Akounak Tedaiat Taha Tazoughai” (Akounak for short) is set in the Saharan city of Agadez in Niger. “Akounak is a visually sumptuous and musically thrilling movie that works splendidly with or without the ‘Purple Rain’ mythos”, according to the Dangerous Minds website.

Prince is one of our greatest artists working today

Prince was the first artist since the Beatles to simultaneously land a number one album, single and film, and he did so just at the age of 24.

He has also been heaped with praise from the one-and-only Miles Dewey Davis. I was blessed to have seen Prince perform twice during his fifth tour, first in November, 1984 at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, where I met Nelson George and Greg Tate..

I would later see Prince at Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto during that year. In fact, Prince sold 17,000 tickets for his December 2, 1984 concert at Maple Leaf Gardens in less than two hours.

Tickets for the December 3rd show were gobbled up a fast as the promoter announced the second date was added.

Prince’s film “Purple Rain” grossed $65 million in North America. The album was five times platinum in Canada which represents a half million record sales.

The first single off the LP “When Doves Cry” went platinum and the singles “Let’s Go Crazy” and “Purple Rain” went gold.

Prince has serious links to Toronto, Canada. In the early 2000s he was married to Toronto resident Manuela Testolini. It was a pairing that led to Prince spending time in the great white north. He and Testolini would later split, filing for divorce in July of 2006.

Over the years, Prince has reportedly been spotted at Raptors games. Despite being a short guy, he is rumored to be quite a basketball player. He has also taken to the stage as a DJ.

He also recorded his “Musicology” album in Toronto and Mississauga.
Prince has previously said that he loves Toronto, telling The Canadian Press that he liked the variety of people living in the “cosmopolitan” city. “It’s a real melting pot in every sense of the word,” he said in April, 2004.

“There are all sorts of different kinds of people everywhere you go in Toronto. There are all sorts of great music, great restaurants, and great night spots.”

Prince also has a special relationship with Larry Graham, uncle of Toronto’s own Drake. Graham, before making it on his own, was a member of Sly and the Family Stone, where he “added a little bottom.” He sang and played the bass and other instruments.

Graham was credited with introducing Prince to the Jehovah’s Witness religion and has appeared with Prince at various international venues.
Prince recorded a song called “Baltimore”

Prince joined many American-born African celebrities in helping Spike Lee complete his 1992 “Malcolm X” film. Lee has stated that if he hadn’t been financially rescued by those celebrities, he would have been forced to shut down post-production.

In early 2015, Prince recorded a song called “Baltimore” and called for people who went to his concert in that city to wear gray in tribute to Freddie Gray, an African man of Baltimore residence who was killed by police there.

CNN reported that his promotional materials stated: “Wear something gray in remembrance of Freddie Gray, who died from severe spinal injuries after his arrest last month.”

Prince has no problem with controversy. For better or worse, he has a special relationship with Cornell West and Tavis Smiley.

He told Smiley on his PBS television show that he was moved after seeing “Unforgivable Blackness” a documentary about Jack Johnson. Johnson was the first African born in America to be heavyweight boxing champion.

Prince’s “Dreamer” captures feelings of many in the Movement

One of Prince’s songs, “Dreamer” captures the feelings of many of us in the African Liberation Movement.

The song expresses: “I was born, raised on a slave plantation in the United States of the red, white and blue. Never knew that I was different till Dr. King was on a balcony lyin’ in a bloody pool.”

Prince’s career proves that one does not have to sell right out to impact Africa, Africans and the world.

Norman (Otis) Richmond, aka Jalali, was born in Arcadia, Louisiana, and grew up in Los Angeles. He left Los Angles after refusing to fight in Viet Nam because he felt that, like the Vietnamese, Africans in the United States were colonial subjects. Jalali is producer/host for the Diasporic Music show on UhuruRadio.com every Sunday at 2pm ET. His column Diasporic Music appears monthly in The Burning Spear newspaper.  He can be contacted Norman.o.richmond@gmail.com


NB: this text is copyrighted, and only limited excerpting with full attribution is permitted. For licensing and reproduction permissions, please contact Norman Otis Richmond at normanotisrichmond@gmail.com.

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